The whole archipelago of Hawaiian Islands takes its name from the largest island, the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii. Formed from five volcanoes with three of them active, it is also the youngest geologically. Lava is still pouring out continuously from the active volcanoes; flowing downstream to the ocean, creating more land every day. The Big Island boasts the biggest active volcano in the world, the Mauna Loa and one of the most active, the Kilauea. In the Volcano National Park that encompasses these two volcanoes, steam can be seen venting from craters and ground cracks and solidified lava flows can be seen everywhere.
Lava tubes are natural channels through which lava travels beneath the surface of the ground. When the lava flow has stopped and the rock has cooled down a long, cave like channel is formed. They can be as wide as 50 feet and many miles long. The famous Thurston Lava Tube is truly a natural wonder unique to Hawaii.
Hilo, the island’s largest city, is located on the windward or east side and has seen its shares of tsunamis and lava flows that destroyed parts of the town. It is also renowned as one of the rainiest places on earth. Along its water front which has been rebuilt after being destroyed a couple of times by tsunamis, many humongous banyan trees were planted by celebrities, honouring movie stars, political leaders, authors, adventurers etc and among them a certain Richard M. Nixon whose tree is said to be the most crooked one in the tree-lined Banyan Drive.
Situated on the summit of Mauna Kea volcano, 13,796 ft above sea level, is a collection of world’s highest astronomical observatories. The ‘Canada–France–Hawaii Telescope’ is one of the twelve international scientific facilities established here.
Located in Hilo is the well known Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts Factory. The nuts were actually not native to Hawaii but were introduced from Australia in the 1920’s and later became a commercial success. To savour some exotic taste, do not miss the shredded cuttlefish dipped in chocolate with its exquisite favour and mouth feel, only found here in the Big Island Candy Company.
Kona, the first capital of the unified Kingdom of Hawaii, is on the leeward or the west side of the Big Island and has a drier climate compared to the windward side. However, it still rains briefly almost every day around 4 pm. On the water front, Kailua Pier is the starting and finishing point for the Ironman World Championship Triathlon. Kona is well known for its excellent Kona coffee, introduced here from Brazil in early 19th century and planted on the slopes of the surrounding volcanoes. Abundant fruits are also cultivated around here and their papaya is arguably one of the best money can buy.